Skip to content

Richard III: The man who would be King at Marin Shakespeare

September 17, 2015

From the moment he appears on the stage Richard will be king. To attain that end he will stop at nothing. He sees himself a victim, cast aside by all the world for the physical deformities, the short stature and hunchback and withered arm, that were his from birth through no fault of his own. He does not see that he has been shunned for other reasons also—his embittered outlook, his unabashedly criminal impulses.

This is Richard. Aidan O’Reilly IS Richard. From his opening soliloquy, faultlessly delivered with just the right blend of pathos and ambition, he lifts this complex character from a mere character of unredeemed villainy, into something more human. Or so it seems, sometimes, until the repetitions of Richard’s deceit on one of his potential foes—Anne (Livia Demarchi), the widow of his first murder—and then another and another, show in ever greater detail the depth of his depravity.

Richard is given to long ruminations on his plans, sometimes shared with others, to assassinate every potential heir to the throne, until there is no one left to stand in his way.

Anne’s husband and her father-in-law were only the first to go. The Duke of Clarence (Nick Sholley), is next, slain in a bloody knifing by a pair of conflicted thugs who offer the only bit of comedy to appear in this staging. Edward dies of grief, leaving behind Elizabeth (Elena Wright) his widow with two young sons—young actors Patrick Ewart and Carl Robinett proving very accomplished in these roles.

There follows a succession of deceits, and murders, some offstage, some in full view. Richard does not intend to hide much. The empty throne beckons to him. Seductions abound, and not only those intended to beget his own heirs from the wombs of the widows of those he has slain. Richard enlists anyone he can to carry out the bloody deeds he plans. Buckingham, powerful lord at court falls completely for his slimy charms and becomes his ally in deceit, failing to see that he will himself one day fall victim to that same deceit. On Richard’s orders Tyrell (Michael Shaeffer in a second role) murders Elizabeth’s boys and the last remaining heirs to the throne, then breaks down before us under the enormity of his crime.

The list of his crimes is endless. With his “me-against-the-world” mindset, seduction is the only tool that Richard has, and he manages to sway almost everyone he encounters in his rise to power. A bribe secures the support of the Lord Mayor of London; Richard’s duplicity engages the church in a show of humility. In a long and mesmerizing moment between Richard and Elizabeth, he almost succeeds in convincing her that in his hands her own daughter, and England will be safe. It is all a lie. Yet when Richard cries out “There is no creature loves me!” we see a fleeting glimpse of the tortured soul that has begotten all this torture. In a stunning scene, he is haunted by all the ghosts of those he has betrayed and slain. In the end, he lies defeated, another bloody corpse on the field of battle he has created.

Ably directed by Robert Currier, to bring out glimpses of humanity amid all the horror of Richard’s mercifully brief reign. Costumes by Abra Berman justapose Richard’s aggressive contemporary military garb with Elizabethan court finery.

Through September 27, 2015

Dominican University’s Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 890 Belle Ave, San Rafael, CA 94901

Box Office: (415) 499-4485

City Life for the underprivileged, then and (of course) now

August 31, 2015

–from “Tono-Bungay” by H. G. Wells (1909)–

“It is a foolish community that can house whole classes, useful and helpful, honest and loyal classes, in such squalidly unsuitable dwellings. It is by not means the social economy it seems, to use up old women’s savings and inexperience in order to meet the landlord’s demands. But anyone who doubts this thing is going on right up to today need only to spend and afternoon in hunting for lodgings in any of the regions of San Francisco I have named.”

[Wells actually refers to London, not San Francisco. His year is 1909, but his words speak absolute truth today in 2015, when landlords with ruthless efficiency are raising rents without mercy, and driving the working and artisan class out of the city. In the economics of class and rentals, nothing has changed in all those years.]

Collaboration: There’s more to it than you think.

August 25, 2015

A single word–collaboration–and its Webster’s definition, cannot possible encompass the width and breadth of possibilities, especially in a real-time joint writing project undertaken by two writers on two continents with widely divergent backgrounds.

The project came to be under unique circumstances, a conference of like-minded individuals sharing a love and fascination with Antarctic history. A brief four days in Scotland, attended by sixty or so from around the world. I took notes during the opening introductions, to make sure I had a chance to talk with everyone with whom I shared a more detailed interest.

Brad Borkan introduced himself, with a few words about his desire to talk with those who shared his interest in decision-making under pressure, in extreme environments. In Antarctica. Later I made sure we had a chance to chat. That conversation led to another and another, and over the course of the few days we all spent in Craobh Haven, Brad and I cooked up a plan to write a book together.

Four months have passed. We have the overall structure of the book, an introduction and a couple of chapters, a plan to get it all before an agent and then a publisher. We communicate by email and the occasional skype and telephone conversation.

Now, the point about collaboration: we have a similar dedication to the goal. It does involve a good bit of work, this writing and critiquing, scheduling the talks, responding to the insights and queries, but it is evident from this long-distance collaboration, that we are each devoting an approximately equal measure of energy and time. And desire to see the project through.

This between two people who, before their chance meeting, did not know each other.

Will the project take hold, find its agent and publisher, find its way to the bookshelves of business and airport retailers? That remains to be seen, of course.

But the process is immensely rewarding.

Mozart (and others old and new) in the Woods: Monteux School, July 2015

July 16, 2015

Monteux 7.12.15
Classical music, chamber and orchestra, flutes and violins, a long and lovely sustain.
Big green barn, huge glass windows with the woods outside, birdsong, starlight.

Same time, same place. July 2015, the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Muscians in the hamlet of Hancock, Maine.

There is probably no place quite like this anywhere else in the world, likewise no musical experience to match its unique combination of the formal and the informal, of carefully formatted complex musical performance and the natural forested auditorium at the end of a gravel road. Not at the end of the world, mind you. The villages and the town of Ellsworth provide a potential audience of thousands within a half-hour’s drive. Many of whom could easily fill the 400 or so folding seats in this wonderfully intimate auditorium. Too bad for them, that they missed the absolutely stunning performances given at the most recent of the weekly edition of “Wednesdays at Monteux” July 15.

Unlike the Sunday Symphony Concerts with full 40-piece orchestra, Wednesday’s are smaller productions, solos and chamber ensembles. The music is chosen by the student performers themselves, ordered from the music lending library, rehearsed once or twice only, and then performed. So great is the professionalism on display here, one would not know just by watching and listening that these are “students” of the craft. Except perhaps by their youth and the exceptional vigor with which they approach their art.

Rather, attending one of the Monteux concerts is much like having a private concert for friends in your living room. With a program of the finest, most exciting compositions ever written over the span of centuries, put on by some of the most talented musicians you are ever likely to encounter in any concert hall, anywhere in the world. All in an unadorned auditorium where no member audience is farther from the conductor than fifty feet, where the movements and facial expressions of the musicians are in full view and close enough to read.

Last night’s program included six pieces spanning the centuries from Mozart to just-composed new work, no less than three of which earned standing ovations from an appreciative audience. Among these were Vivian Balzat’s violin suite “Archipelago Suite: The Kermadec Islands” performed by the virtuoso Allion Salvador, in its northern hemisphere premiere. The piece, evocative of these remote Pacific Islands, called to mind birdlife and haunting isolation, was so lovely I wished for a recording to listen again and again, so new there is none to be had. Yet. Salvador took the stage again, with violinist Christopher Kim and pianist Jonathan Spatola-Knoll, where the two violins practically set the stage on fire with the lightning stroke finger work demanded by Pablo de Sarasate’s “Navarra, Op. 33.”

The program included a Schulhoff “Concertino for Flute, Viola, and Contrabass,” Anthony Plog’s “Four Sketches for Brass Quintet,” Yiwen Shen’s “Four Chinese Brush Paintings” in its second-ever performance, each remarkable in its own right.

Aaron Copland’s “Suite from Appalachian Spring” in its original version for thirteen instruments closed the show. You may be familiar with this piece, but you will never have heard it quite so clearly and passionately as it was played last night. That final, fading note, filled the hall with its purity, and brought a tear to more than one eye with its stunning beauty. And when it had faded away the audience leapt to its feet for one final, thunderous ovation. All of this in a concert hall so small, so informal, that each and every note seems to be played for you alone.

There were too many empty seats last night. The hall fills to overflowing for the orchestra pops concerts where the music is familiar, but the real magic is to be found in the unfamiliar, the new, the seldom performed. The concerts at Monteux are unlike any to be witnessed anywhere. For those lucky enough to be in this part of Maine in the summer, they are not to be missed.

You have a few more opportunities to take in for 2015—Wednesday July 22, and Sundays July 19 and 26—and a whole season to plan for in the next. All concerts at 7:30 p.m.

Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Musicians
2015 Schedule of Concerts
P. O. Box 457, Hancock ME 04640
Tel. 207-422-3280

T. E. Lawrence: “The divided selves said nothing. . . .”

June 5, 2015

For all those—soldiers, caregivers, lost explorers, strivers of all stripes who feel overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding them—these words from T. E. Lawrence, better know these days as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ — In this passage, he is fevered, retreating from a failed attempt, half in his own mind and half without:

“Now I found myself dividing into parts. There was one which went on riding wisely, sparing or helping every pace of the wearied camel. Another hovering above and to the right bent down curiously, and asked what the flesh was doing. The flesh gave no answer, for, indeed, it was conscious only of a ruling impulse to keep on and on; but a third garrulous one talked and wondered, critical of the body’s self-inflicted labour, and contemptuous of the reason for the effort. . . .

“This spent body toiled on doggedly and took no heed, quite rightly, for the divided selves said nothing I was not capable of thinking in cold blood; they were all my natives.”

For each of us, at times life will become so hard we will wonder why we bother to keep on at it. The wondering is natural. In looking for reasons to keep on, we can look inward. We may, like Lawrence, find no reasons worthy of the name. We must, like him, understand that such questioning is only a part of the whole. It is to honor the other parts that we keep on.

The words above are quoted from T. E. Lawrence, from his book “Revolt in the Desert.”

FREE Bay Area Writers Conference Sunday June 7 at San Mateo County Fair

June 3, 2015

The California Writers Club (San Francisco Branch) is pleased to host their fifth annual FREE WRITERS CONFERENCE on Sunday June 7, at the San Mateo County Fair. The free workshops include:

2:00–“Winners: How to polish your writing and get it out there”–Laurel Anne Hill, moderator
3:00–“Writing for Children”–Published authors Anita Volta, Prudence Brietrose, Wendy Walter. Moderator Bill Baynes
4:00–“Ask the Editors”–Q+A with Darlene Frank, Lisa Meltzer Penn, and Audrey Kalman
5:00–“Print on Demand–Publishing through CreateSpace and LightningSource”:–author and historian David Hirzel
6:00—private writing consultations for those attending

And that’s not all. The Literary stage will be hosting workshops, readings, book promotion, playwriting, children’s events, and much more throughout the entire week of the San Mateo County Fair June 6-13. See attached schedule of events, or click this link then click the link to Literary Events on the Fine Arts Stage

All this is free with Fair admission. And after the free workshops at this “event within the event,” you can visit the midway, the music on the main stage and the side stages, the show chickens in the livestock area. Such a deal!

At the San Mateo County Fairgrounds, 1346 Saratoga Dr, San Mateo, CA 94403
Fair Telephone: (650) 574-3247

CWC.Fair Sched5.15.15

CWC_Fair2015 DH_CS-LS_TalkV2

Lear’s Shadow at the Marsh: More than a shadow, held over until June 27

May 23, 2015

If you’re familiar with Shakespeare’s great tragedy King Lear—betrayal and heartbreak within family, betrayal and rebellion without—then you might recall the role of his jester, his Fool, his confidante, his source of wisdom to ignore.

Still nameless, the fool is now unemployed, and applying for work in his trade. This small conceit allows for an ever-blooming expansion of his place in Lear’s life. From that particular intimacy springs the fool’s taking on the roles, one by one, of the principals of Shakespeare’s original play: the daughters Goneril, Reagan, and Cordelia, and most powerfully that of the old king himself.

In a stunning solo performance Geoff Hoyle slips effortlessly from one to the other, veering away into powerful tangents of his and David Ford’s own making, keeping to one rule: “when Lear speaks, his lines are from Shakespeare’s play.” As Lear’s Shadow, Hoyle becomes the Fool again, commenting on what he’s seen in his forty-seven years of service with the old king, reaching back to his connections with the girls as a stand-in stepmom taking them as children to the beach.

The Fool has his own connections, his own love, his own trust about to be broken, with all of these characters. He is both inside the story, and outside it, a witness, a commentator with no real force but that of observation that only he—and, lucky us, the audience—can see.

Likewise Hoyle is both inside and outside the Fool, feeling his own sense of loss and betrayal—”What about me?”—when the power shifts, and for all his shared history with that dysfunctional family, he’s about to be left behind. There are storms marauding this tortured kingdom, blows against the empire that his strives manfully to close the door against, with only small success.

The play builds slowly from a trivial-seeming introduction, but steadily gains power with each successive scene, relieved by the Fool’s comic appearance to comment and cajole the audience. In one particularly moving scene, Hoyle as the doddering, confused Lear reaches out to one of the audience, takes his hand and spreads it against its own, comparing the fingers and the miracle of humanity. In another, the Fool strikes back literally at the king, and in an intricate bit of staging delivers and receives the blow. It is not just a physical blow. Others lie in wait, tragic in the most moving sense of the word.

Well, you’re just going to have to see it for yourself. The magic of black-box in the hands of a master of the art. It helps to be familiar with the original King Lear, but even those who are not cannot fail to be moved to this Lear’s farewell to Cordelia, the most pure and precious of his daughters.

Written and performed by Geoff Hoyle, in collaboration with David Ford.

NOW EXTENDED! June 4-27, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 8pm | Saturdays at 5pm
Extended dates run Thursdays at 8pm & Saturdays at 5pm only (no Wednesdays)
80 minutes | No Intermission | 12 and up

Box Office: The Marsh

Theater: The Marsh San Francisco. 1062 Valencia St. SF 94110 415.282.3055


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.